While one of America's major spring sports leagues continues to struggle through a frustrating series of negotiations in an attempt to play its 2020 season, another one is set to return in just under a month.
In exciting news Wednesday morning, Major League Soccer announced its plan to return.
MLS shares a couple of parallels in its return plan with the NBA, in that Disney World's relatively isolated environment and expansive network of facilities, fields, and housing at the Wide World of Sports Complex is suitable for a safe resumption of play. Additionally, both leagues detail that health and safety remains the focal point and will feature comprehensive testing, constant screenings, social distancing protocols, and more preventative and precautionary action to keep everyone involved at as low a risk as possible.
The format of the tournament is as follows:
- All 26 teams will partake in the initial group stage, made up of six groups and beginning July 8, and each club will play three games. There are three groups in each conference. Group-stage games will count toward regular season points.
- The top two finishers in each group and the four best third-place finishers, based on points, will advance to the Round of 16, beginning on July 25 and going to July 28.
- The quarterfinals will go from July 30 to August 1.
- The semifinals will go from August 5 to August 6.
- The tournament final will be held on August 11. The winner will earn a berth to the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
- The tournament's prize money pool of $1.1 million can be earned as bonus money by players.
- After the tournament, the regular season will continue under a "revised schedule" that has not yet been developed.
Full rules of the tournament are available on the official website of MLS. The tournament draw will be conducted on Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 pm ET on the league's official website, as well as over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. After the draw, the schedule will be released, as will the streaming and TV info.
MLS additionally states that "unique and experimental technologies" will be used throughout the broadcast of the tournament with features such as "unprecedented access to players and coaches."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber released a statement regarding the unique tournament, saying that Disney's environment allows the league "to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff." Garber also spoke of the death of George Floyd and the issues of "racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women," adding that MLS is "deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long."